New York Times goes to the zoo and reports on those strange Southern animals who oppose same-sex marriage

It's Homer Simpson vs. The Professor as The New York Times this week pretends to provide a balanced report on opponents of same-sex marriage in North Carolina.

The online headline of the Times story that appeared on the newspaper's front page Thursday proclaims:

Opponents of Gay Marriage Ponder Strategy as Issue Reaches Supreme Court

But don't let the headline fool you. 

Supporters of a traditional biblical view of marriage as a sacred union between one man and one woman actually play only bit parts in this slanted report (Kellerism, anyone?) in which backwoods simpletons square off against sophisticated experts from elite universities. It's too bad there aren't any smart people to interview on the traditional marriage side. 

No, the top quote isn't a hick declaring that "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," but it's close:

EDEN, N.C. — John G. Kallam Jr., 67, carries a worn black Bible and another copy on his iPad, and believes Scripture is unequivocal.

“Sodom and Gomorrah, that story alone tells you what God thinks of same-sex marriage,” he said. “God said that homosexual behavior is a sin and that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Like three-quarters of the voters in rural Rockingham County, he checked “yes” in the 2012 plebiscite when North Carolina joined some 30 other states in adopting constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. “I breathed a sigh of relief,” he recalled.

But last October, Mr. Kallam was stunned when a federal judge overturned the ban.

An appointed county magistrate, Mr. Kallam was obligated to perform civil marriages. So he resigned, one of six in the state who stepped down to avoid violating their faith.

Keep reading, and opponents of same-sex marriage — including Kallam — are presented as angry and resentful, although the newspaper provides no quotes or evidence to back up its usage of those terms.

In fact, the traditional marriage supporters quoted by the Times seem calmly resigned to the likelihood of the U.S. Supreme Court making same-sex marriage a national right:

Thirty-five miles north, in Eden, population 15,000, the Rev. Steve Griffith is the senior pastor of the church Mr. Kallam attends, the Osborne Baptist Church. Situated in a onetime headquarters of Fieldcrest Cannon, the defunct textile giant, the church attracts some 1,500 worshipers on Sunday.
Mr. Griffith, 52, who is apt to wear T-shirts and jeans even at services, firmly believes that homosexual behavior is a sin, but he senses the political trends.
“I fully expect that same-sex marriage will become the law of the land,” he said. But he does not intend to perform such marriages.

After Kallam's cameo appearance in the lede, readers don't hear from him again. Presumably, he serves his purpose up high.

With a few quick clicks on Google, though, a fuller picture of Kallam emerges. While he opposes same-sex marriage, his bigger issue seems to be one that the Times story downplays: religious freedom. 

Yes, the report makes a brief reference to "so-called religious freedom bills." But the newspaper doesn't bother to give Kallam an opportunity to discuss his concerns or provide relevant background on his case, such as the fact that his departure as a magistrate prompted more than 500 residents to rally on his behalf this past October.

Kallam spoke at that rally and — as the above video indicates — voiced no anger or resentment:

“I want my departure from the courthouse to be as honorable as possible,” Kallam told the crowd. “I don’t hold any animosity against anyone, but I will stand by my religious principles.”

Is it just me or does that quote strike a different tone than the one chosen by the Times?

At that same rally, North Carolina Senate President Phil Berger — a Republican who is named in the Times story but not quoted — said the state was obligated to abide by a federal court decision allowing same-sex marriage. While pledging to fight that ruling, Berger said:

"However, unless and until these rulings are reversed, I will do that I can to ensure that expanding the freedoms of some does not infringe on the constitutionally protected rights of others."

Regrettably, the Times uses Kallam as a pawn in its story while neglecting to state his case. 

Not long ago, tmatt suggested in a GetReligion post that "the most important skill in journalism is the ability to accurately state the views of someone with whom you disagree." 

Once again, we have a story where a major American newspaper seems to lack the ability — or desire — to do that. 

The result: a biased, crappy piece of journalism.

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